This month, SEIU 503 is celebrating Black History Month by lifting up the voices of Black SEIU 503 members and members of the African/African American Caucus (AFRAM). Follow AFRAM or SEIU 503 on Facebook to see these stories.
No matter where we come from or what we look like, we all deserve a fair shot to pursue our dreams. At SEIU 503, we recognize that Black members of our community do not move through our workplaces and our communities with the same privilege as white union members. Systematic racism exists in our country, and it has led to the Black-white wage gap, disproportionate policing, as well as inequality and segregation in our schools.
W.E.B. Du Bois, an African-American sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, said that because of race there are two distinct working classes in the U.S. — one white and the other people of color. He was among the first people to note the labor movements’ role in perpetuating this division by excluding Black workers from our ranks and from the benefits of the victories we have won. Du Bois’ addition of race to the analysis of class in America was revolutionary, and continues to influence the way we view social and economic justice to this day.
America’s labor movement must face its own shortcomings and put racial justice at the center of its work, in order to live up to our goals of creating a more just and vibrant society. At our 2016 International Convention, SEIU members passed a resolution proclaiming that in order to win economic justice, we must win racial justice. Earlier this year, SEIU 503’s Board of Directors passed a resolution committing our union to supporting local Black-led organizations in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, including $50,000 in financial support.
SEIU members have created the Racial Justice Center, a hub for resources and learning around issues of racial justice in the labor movement. The pioneering work SEIU members have done to support the Race-Class Narrative Project has had a profound impact on economic justice campaigns across the country. And the Talking Freedom Project, a collaboration between SEIU members and the MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), has produced a wealth of resources for self-education on topics ranging from police brutality to education to labor issues among incarcerated people.
We encourage you to use Black History Month as an opportunity to listen, read and learn about the ongoing work that we must do to fully represent the Black members of our union – today, tomorrow and into the future. The resources linked above are an excellent place to start or continue your education.